Nut Allergies and Your Child: Guidelines and Recommendations

For many parents, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a great option for an easy lunch or a grab-and-go snack. Peanut butter is tasty, inexpensive, and is rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals such as Zinc which is essential to healthy growth. However, over the years peanut and tree nut allergies have been on the rise. Many schools are opting to become nut-free campuses in response to the growth in the population of those experiencing nut allergies. Currently, more than 1 million children in the United States live with a peanut allergy, therefore if your child experiences this food allergy they are not alone. If your child has a nut allergy, the reaction can be as mild as a rash, however in some children nut allergies are potentially life-threatening. Urgent Care for Children is happy to share the most current information and guidelines to managing your little one’s nut allergy, or possibly helping to prevent this particular food allergy from developing.

Can you truly prevent your child from developing a nut allergy?
Not entirely, yet, there are guidelines to introducing peanuts and tree nuts to a child’s diet that have shown promise in helping to promote peanut tolerance. In 2015, the Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study provided new insight that guided pediatricians on when parents should introduce nuts into their children’s diets. LEAP followed over 600 children to observe their response to peanut-based foods during a four-year span. At four – 10 months old, the children were divided into two groups. The first group completely avoided nuts and products made with nuts. The second group was given age-appropriate peanut-based products as a part of their diet. When both groups of children were observed at age five, scientists found that children who had eaten nuts as part of their diet were far less likely to have an allergic reaction. Additionally, for babies at high risk for peanut allergy, eating peanut foods early and regularly reduced the risk of peanut allergy by more than 80 percent, compared to peanut avoidance.

When can I start giving peanut butter to my baby?
There are some basic guidelines parents should follow when introducing nut-based products to their little one’s menu. The guidelines are based on your baby’s presumed food allergy risk.

1) Babies with severe eczema, who need prescription creams or a diagnosed egg allergy.

2) Babies with mild to moderate eczema.

3) Babies without eczema or a food allergy.

Babies in the first group should be tested by their primary care physician early, around the two – four-month checkup. Pediatricians recommend offering babies in this group their first taste of peanut butter while in their pediatrician’s office at around four – 6 months of age.

Babies in group two do not need to be tested, but you should discuss the issue with their pediatrician. Parents can offer babies in this group smooth peanut butter at about six months of age.

Finally, babies in the third group do not necessarily need to be introduced to peanut products early, but it is perfectly fine to do so in accordance with the family’s food preferences. This group is at the least risk of developing a peanut allergy. It is important to note that babies should not consume whole nuts or chunky peanut butter as it poses a choking hazard. Instead, offer plain smooth peanut butter, foods with smooth peanut butter mixed into a puree, or other age-appropriate snacks made with peanut butter.

My child has been diagnosed with a peanut allergy, what should I do?
Your child’s pediatrician may refer them to an allergist. An allergist will be able to guide you towards effectively managing your little one’s peanut allergy. Keep a close eye on ingredient labels. Make sure caregivers are aware of your child’s needs and the specific guidelines set by your family pediatrician. Also, inform your child’s early care center or school about their allergy and discuss their policy and plan to keep your little one safe.

Is Urgent Care for Children available to help my child if they have an allergic reaction to nuts?
Should your child show signs of a mild to moderate food allergy reaction, Urgent Care for Children is equipped to provide care to your child. If your child is exhibiting signs of anaphylaxis or other life-threatening responses, it is recommended that you call 911 and seek immediate assistance at the emergency room.